North Sails NEWS
INTERVIEW WITH CLASS 40 CHAMPION PHIL SHARP
Imerys Clean Energy skipper Phil Sharp wins Class 40 Championship in the finale Transat Jacques Vabre
We caught up with the skipper of Imerys Clean Energy, Phil Sharp, on his Class 40 win after completing the Transat Jacques Vabre, the final race of the 2017 Class 40 season. Powered by North Sails 3Di, Phil has been competing in Class 40 division for just two seasons now, and winning this year is quite the feat! Placing 1st overall, with a lead of 247 points after five events: Trophée Guyader, Normandy Channel Race, Les Sables Horta, Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre, Phil looks forward to his next opportunity to shine.
You are relatively new to Class 40. What does this achievement and quick rise to success mean to you?
This is my second full season sailing in Class 40 which is now a very established and competitive offshore Class. I would say that it takes one full season to achieve that all-important reliability, and to really learn how to maximize the boats potential. It has been a lot of work over the last 18 months, so what we have achieved this year is really satisfying for everyone involved and it is really great to reap the rewards.
What do you think enabled you to get the level of consistency you needed to win this series (preparation, hardware (including sails), decisions, weather etc) and with such a huge margin?
If I compare this season against last, I think this year we really had the time to meticulously prepare the boat, particularly towards the end of the season. This meant that it was possible to spend the vast majority of the race focusing on strategy and speed, rather than fixing things, which is absolutely key.
“The sails are fundamental in this equation – in order that you can race with real confidence you have to have sails you can rely on, that are well-tested and that you can push hard with.”
What did North Sails do to support you in making an impact in Class 40?
Where North Sails have been particularly supportive and professional to work with, is in the development process. It is virtually impossible to create the perfect sail out of the box, so they have given us some great support in listening and understanding to what we wanted, what we needed to improve, and optimizing the sails to meet our objectives. This has definitely given us important performance gains throughout the season.
When did you take delivery of your sail inventory? Have you added or replaced any sails for the 2017 season, and your ultimate victory?
We started building up an inventory from July 2016, when we started working with North Sails. This has been a gradual process replacing the sails that came with the boat, according to our budget. We have also worked with North Sails on developing and modifying new sails by tweaking the shape and looking at the effects on the water.
“This was a real eye-opener and a great learning experience for me – to really see what a difference the sails could make to performance.”
How did you feel about your sail inventory, how did it fare over the series and are there any changes you would like to make to it (and why)?
I was actually really pleased with how everything performed in the TJV. In particular, two fractional sails that worked really well were our A6 and A5, which enabled us to push the boat hard during windy conditions. If anything, I would work on developing our reaching setup and perhaps refine the Code 0 for reaching, rather than upwind.
What was your greatest memory of the TJV?
Escaping the doldrums. We had had a pretty awful time to the west with seriously light airs, which pushed us back from 1st to 4th, with the boats to the east of us getting slightly more pressure for two days. The last night was particularly dreadful with lots of wind shifts and we were sure we had lost out. However, when we downloaded the positions the next morning it was a very nice surprise to see that we had pulled back into the lead with a 10 mile advantage, and had managed to break into the southeast trades before the others. We rewarded ourselves with a large portion of porridge that morning!
Other than winning, what was your greatest achievement of the series?
“Leading 12 of the 17 days of the TJV was a nice statistic to finish with. As well as being able to report zero sail damage at the end of an Atlantic race! Although that is largely North Sails achievement as well as ours!”
So Phil, what’s up next for you?
After a great season in Class 40 we feel it is a good time to move up to IMOCA 60 so we are working on attracting further support for a highly competitive entry towards the 2019 Barcelona World Race and the Vendee Globe 2020.